No discussion of misconceptions at Walt Disney World would be complete without an examination of the park that started it all.
The Magic Kingdom is a park so synonymous with Walt Disney World that many people assume it is Walt Disney World. When football players shout that they’re going to Disney World, we know what park they mean. If a television show sets an episode at Disney World, it will likely be at Magic Kingdom. With the exception of Disneyland in California, it’s Disney’s most iconic park.
With such a long history, it comes as no surprise that there are so plenty of things people get totally wrong about the Magic Kingdom. From urban legends to general misunderstandings, a surprising amount of confusion has surrounded Walt Disney World’s flagship park. We’ve covered the top misconceptions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. To conclude our series, here are ten of the top misconceptions we consistently found about Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
1. It’s the only park at Walt Disney World (or the only one worth visiting)
The most pervading misconception about the Magic Kingdom is that it literally is Walt Disney World. While it may make longtime fans cringe, it’s still fairly common for people to use the terms Disney World and Magic Kingdom interchangeably, and I regularly meet people who stare in bewilderment when they learn that Walt Disney World has more than one park—or at least that it has more than one worth visiting.
It’s ironic that when Walt Disney envisioned his Florida project, his primary focus wasn’t on building a bigger, better Disneyland—it was actually on building of his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow—a futuristic city that would eventually inspire Epcot. He may have only agreed to build the Magic Kingdom as a means to appease his board to reach that goal. While Walt didn’t live to see any of his Florida parks built, much of what he learned from Disneyland affected the construction of the Magic Kingdom.
Each of Walt Disney World’s parks has a strength. Many would argue that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the resort’s best overall park thanks to its all ages appeal, cutting edge attractions, and the timeless draw of nature. Epcot has the resort’s best food, shopping, and superb attractions that don’t all rely on intellectual properties. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is king for thrill rides and all things Star Wars.
Magic Kingdom’s greatest strength is nostalgia. Many guests return to the Magic Kingdom every year because of the “Disney feelz”—that childlike sense of wonder and memory Disney has expertly conveyed for generations. Many of its attractions are classics, and it is also one of the best parks for families with small children.
Despite this, it is a mistake to say that Magic Kingdom is Walt Disney World’s only decent park. Indeed, for many fans, it might not even be a “full day” park. Different people will have different preferences, but it’s a mistake to ignore Walt Disney World’s other offerings. When planning your trip, consider each park’s strength, and try to set up a balanced vacation that will allow you to experience everything Walt Disney World has to offer.
2. It’s not-as-good Disneyland
Disney fans can argue for days over whether Disneyland in California or Walt Disney World is better. On one hand, the Magic Kingdom is bigger—much bigger, both in square footage and in rides. Its castle and classic rides are all scaled larger than their California counterparts. On the other hand, Disneyland has the Indiana Jones Adventure, Space Mountain with music, the Finding Nemo submarine voyage, Mickey’s Toontown, and the Matterhorn. Disneyland’s version of the nighttime spectacular, Fantasmic, is also exponentially better. While these are certainly missed at the Magic Kingdom, there’s a key advantage the Florida park has that Disneyland doesn’t.
The luxury of space.
The abundance of space at Walt Disney World has made all the difference in the park’s development. For much of its history, the Magic Kingdom suffered from a consistent stigma as a bigger-but-less-exciting version of Disneyland. New ideas seemed to come sluggishly to the Florida park while Disneyland grew more and more adventurous.
The building of New Fantasyland seems to have proved a turning point for the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World took the classic attractions of Fantasyland and created a true storybook paradise, one so entrancing that even adults can enjoy getting lost in it. The Magic Kingdom is something of a sprawling park compared to Disneyland, and this allowed for a truly significant Fantasyland expansion. It was a much-needed breath of fresh air for the Magic Kingdom, and new attractions like the Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Mickey’s Philharmagic, and the upcoming Tron LightCycle Power Run have helped the park take on an identity separate from Disneyland. It’s not that the Magic Kingdom is better than Disneyland. It’s just that it finally feels somewhat distinct from it.
Walt Disney World is not plagued by the constrictions of space that Disneyland and Disney’s California adventure are. There’s no need to cram every attraction into the Magic Kingdom. The Matterhorn is replaced by Expedition: Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge gets an exact clone at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Rumors have abounded for some time that even the Indiana Jones Adventure might eventually make its way to either Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Indeed, the only thing that Disneyland has hands-down on Walt Disney World for the long term is access to Marvel properties outside of the Guardians of the Galaxy (due to the Marvel deal with Universal Studios). Both parks have unique things to offer and can be enjoyed for their different strengths.
3. Getting into the park is straightforward
Walt Disney World transportation isn’t perfect, but its infrastructure of busses, friendship boats, ferries, walkways, monorails, and the brand new SkyLiner provide fairly reliable means to travel between resorts and parks. If you use Walt Disney World transportation, most parks have relatively simple drop-off procedures, or they have nearby parking lots serviced by trams for guests traveling with personal vehicles. It's not too complicated.
Except for Magic Kingdom.
If you’re coming by bus or walking from the Contemporary Resort, getting to the Magic Kingdom isn’t too difficult since these all get you to the front gate. Monorail service from the Magic Kingdom resorts is also fairly convenient for the same reason. The problem is if you try to drive, ferry, or use the Epcot monorail to get to the Magic Kingdom.
The Transportation and Ticket Center might be the most UnMagical place at the Most Magical Place on Earth. Guests who park at the Magic Kingdom or come in via Epcot’s monorail have to make an unavoidable stop at this hub. If you’re driving in on a busy day, getting in can take long enough, but the real time-suck is getting from the TTC to the parks. You can’t just walk there. Instead, guests are presented with three ominous options for getting to the Magic Kingdom proper—a ferry, an “Express” Monorail, and the Resort Monorail.
Cast members will confirm that the ferry is almost never faster. Most guests congeal into a slow-moving line for the Express Monorail which rarely has walk-on access. On bad days, getting through the TTC can dredge a good hour off your day. To save a little time, cast members recommend taking the Resort Monorail if the line is short. You’ll have to make a few stops on the way to Magic Kingdom, but you’ll still probably get there before the Express Monorail.
4. The park has a city of underground tunnels
This is usually treated as the gold standard for Walt Disney World behind-the-scenes facts, but the statement that Magic Kingdom sits atop an underground city is only half-true. For one thing, it’s not really a city so much as a network of tunnels and some employee facilities. More important, however, is the fact that Magic Kingdom’s “Utilidors” aren’t actually underground.
Florida is a notoriously soggy place with a very temperamental water table. Rather than literally building build a castle on a swamp (who would be daft enough to do that?), the Magic Kingdom is actually built on a second story above the tunnels. This helped serve Walt’s vision so that cast members from different lands aren’t seen in the wrong locations, and the extra elevation also protects the Magic Kingdom from literally sinking into the aforementioned swamp. As an interesting point of trivia, the dirt they used to create this second level came from the construction of the Seven Seas Lagoon.
5. All double strollers have been banned from the park
Due to ever-increasing crowd levels, Walt Disney World introduced a (surprisingly) controversial policy change in 2019: along with banning smoking, vaping, and open ice in coolers, all Disney US parks also banned strollers wider than 31” / 52” long. The media exploded that Disney would surely take a hit for this egregious inconvenience to families, while parents used to using double strollers blasted the company for what sounded like a ridiculous ban.
Only the thing is, double strollers aren’t banned.
Strollers traffic has been a long-time issue at Walt Disney World, one that quickly gets fans worked into a lather. Most regular Disney guests have experienced a crazed parent who decides to use their child’s stroller as a battering ram, a behavior that has even led to some injuries. At the same time, parents with stroller-age kids know the frustration of trying to navigate a stroller through park crowds, especially when people insist on repeatedly coming to a sharp stop right in front of the wheels. It’s a messy situation all around, and double-wide strollers exacerbate both issues.
Extra-large double strollers and stroller wagons are notoriously difficult to maneuver, and they often block walkways and slow traffic flow. Disney didn’t ban double-wide strollers outright— they just limited the max size for double strollers. There are double-wide strollers that fit the requirements, and families with special needs children can also make arrangements with the parks by contacting them directly. The company didn’t take a hit at all for the change—indeed, many long-time fans were thrilled with it since it helps with ongoing crowd congestion problems. Trust us— whether you opt for a lightweight double stroller or divide single-stroller duty between multiple adults in your party, you’re probably better off without a monster stroller at Walt Disney World.
6. It’s the best park to take teenagers
This is a strangely common misconception. Time and time again, parents seem to assume that a visit to Walt Disney World, even with teenagers, just isn’t complete without a full day at the Magic Kingdom. If given a choice to pick one of Walt Disney World’s four parks, parents of teens seem to automatically assume Magic Kingdom is the top choice.
It cannot be emphasized enough, but unless your teens enjoy Disney nostalgia, do not expect them to like the Magic Kingdom as much as you or small children.
It’s not that Magic Kingdom doesn’t have anything for teens. All of the parks “mountains” are teen-friendly, as are Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion (to a point—teens with no Disney parks experience may still find them lame). Gaston provides some uniquely-teen-friendly entertainment for his part, and many teens especially enjoy the caves on Tom Sawyer Island (especially Injun Joe’s creepy muuuuuuuuurder cave). It’s just that, overall, Magic Kingdom feels inescapably like a park for little kids. It’s hard not to turn teens off to it before you even get started.
If all of your children are in the teenage years, give preference to spending time at Walt Disney World’s other three parks. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, and even Epcot will hold much more appeal to teen visitors than Magic Kingdom. If your family include small children or Disney superfans, make the most of your Magic Kingdom visit, but just don’t be surprised if your teens have “meh” feelings about the experience.
7. The castle can be dismantled in the event of a hurricane
This is actually a commonly-debunked theory, but it still makes the rounds on social media from time to time. It has its roots in two misconceptions.
First off, hurricanes rarely reach Walt Disney World. Hurricane Irma was a freak occurrence—a hurricane so massive that it actually had the strength to do a bit of damage in Orlando. Most of the time, Orlando is so far inland that hurricanes fizzle out long before reaching it.
Cinderella Castle is not made of giant stone bricks. The entire castle is basically constructed of fiberglass, steel, and concrete. Rather than relying on a wacky system that would require crews to dangerously disassemble the castle spires, the structure was built strong enough to withstand 110 – 125 mph winds. The spires cannot be removed, and indeed, it’s good that they can’t. Buildings in Florida have to be built to a certain hurricane-resistance, and Cinderella Castle was built to withstand exceptionally powerful winds. While the park did sustain some damage to Tom Sawyer Island and the Jungle Cruise when Hurricane Irma rolled in, the castle remained unscathed.
8. You have to pay for Fastpass
Many of the misconceptions about Disney’s Magic Kingdom come from facts crossed with Disneyland. At Disneyland, Fastpass access if free just like at Walt Disney World, only with a catch—it’s only free if you use Fastpass machines within the parks. To access Fastpass from a smartphone at Disneyland, you have to pay $15 a day for a service called MaxPass.
Not only is Fastpass totally free throughout Walt Disney World—you also can book and modify Fastpasses for free via the My Disney Experience app. You can even make reservations up 30-60 days before your visit, depending on if you’re staying at a Walt Disney World resort. All Fastpass information is stored in your MagicBand, making the process pretty seamless so long as you know your time windows.
9. The park is a food desert (unless you love corn dogs and turkey legs)
There’s a common assumption that all you can get to eat at Disney parks is theme park food—hot dogs, chicken tenders, and Mickey Ice Cream bars for days. While we were pretty harsh on Disney’s Hollywood Studios in our exploration of dining options in that park, Disney’s other parks actually have some decent food, and Magic Kingdom is no exception.
The park’s most famous top-notch option is Fantasyland’s Be Our Guest restaurant. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the toughest reservations to get on property. As an alternative, we absolutely love Adventureland’s Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen. Not only is the food creative, tasty, and even potentially healthy (if you choose wisely), the servers are often hilarious. A good portion of the staff are off-duty Jungle Cruise skippers, and when given the opportunity to test their charms away from the cheesetacular Jungle Cruise script, the skippers are adorably hysterical. On one visit, our server asked if we wanted “premium” water or river water. When I left the decision up to him, he came back with a bubbling bilge-like concoction the color of the Magic Kingdom moat, grinning in pride that he had found me the premium water. Ironically, it was delicious (since it was a mix of every soda on tap-- don't expect all servers to do this, but this is the sort of clever shenanigans we've seen them try). Most of our visits include a hearty deal of chuckling, and the food is pretty good.
Other good places to eat at Magic Kingdom include Sleepy Hollow or the Crystal Palace for breakfast, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café or Columbia Harbour House for lunch, and Aloha Isle for their delicious Dole Whip floats. Cinderella’s Royal Table is the park’s most iconic character dining experience, but we personally prefer the princess character breakfast over at Akershus Royal Dining Hall in Epcot since the reservations are easier to get, prices are cheaper, and kids get much more time with the princesses.
10. Someone was once decapitated on Space Mountain
I know— we’re making a jump into the macabre. There have, unfortunately, been some deaths at Walt Disney World over the years, usually from pre-existing conditions or from accidents when people tried to exit rides in motion. The creepiest of these stories involves the tale of a young man in the late 70’s who tried to stand up on Space Mountain and was decapitated by one of the coaster's low hanging scaffolds. It’s a common cautionary tale spread by parents and teachers to warn visiting youngsters to stay in their seats.
It's almost certainly not true.
Supposedly, a head did roll once on Space Mountain—belonging to a crash dummy. During a test run for the ride, a dummy lurched up out of its seat and had its noggin’ knocked off by a scaffold. While this is likely the source of the urban legend, no one has ever confirmed the story. There was a Space Mountain related death at Walt Disney World, but it occurred after a rider with a pre-existing condition got off the ride.
What other misconceptions have you heard about the Magic Kingdom? Be sure and also check out the rest of our series exploring misconceptions about Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios!